The first crew of China’s new space station is preparing to launch into space this week, which is the latest step in Beijing’s ambitious space power plan.
This mission is China’s first manned space flight in the past five years. It is related to the prestige of the government, as it plans to celebrate the 100th birthday of the ruling Communist Party on July 1 by propagating a blitz.
According to experts familiar with the matter, the Long March 2F rocket carrying three astronauts on the Shenzhou 12 spacecraft will be launched from a base in the Gobi Desert in northwestern China on Thursday.
They plan to stay at Tiangong Station for three months, which is China’s longest manned space mission to date, including spacewalks.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the astronaut’s goal is to “build a new home in space and be ready to use it.”
“This is a practical goal, not a groundbreaking goal.”
According to the China Space Administration, the Long March rocket equipped with the Shenzhou spacecraft was moved to the launch pad of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center last week.
Shenzhou 12 will be docked with Tianhe Station, the main part of Tiangong Station, which will enter orbit on April 29. Last month, a cargo ship transported fuel, food and equipment for a manned mission.
It is planned to complete another 11 tasks in the next one and a half years to complete the construction of the on-orbit temple, including the installation of solar panels and two laboratory modules.
Three of the missions will carry astronauts for crew rotation.
Chen Lan, an analyst at GoTaikonauts who specializes in China’s space program, said: “As we saw in the early days of the International Space Station, maintaining the normal operation of the space station involves a lot of details and complicated work.”
“In fact, the construction of the International Space Station is much slower than the China Station.”
According to the China Space Administration, once completed, the Tiangong will have a mass of about 90 tons and is expected to have a service life of at least 10 years.
It will be much smaller than the International Space Station and similar to the Soviet Mir space station, which was launched in 1986 and decommissioned in 2001.